Skip to content

Archive for

7
Jun

Watch the BlackBerry KEY2 announcement — live at 10:00 a.m. ET!


The KEY2 event will begin on June 7 at 10:00 AM ET.

The BlackBerry KEYone stood out as one of 2017’s most interesting and unique phones, and this year, BlackBerry’s going to follow it up with the KEY2. We’ve already come across quite a few leaks and rumors speculating about what the phone will come equipped with, but soon we’ll be able to lay the rumor mill to rest.

BlackBerry’s holding an event in New York to announce the KEY2, and while we’ll be in attendance, you can watch the entire thing without having to put a foot out the door. The company’s hosting a livestream on YouTube, and you can tune in by simply tapping/clicking the video above.

The livestream will begin at 10:00 AM ET on Thursday, June 7.

What are you hoping to see from the KEY2?

I’m excited for the BlackBerry KEY2 because virtual keyboards are still terrible

BlackBerry KEYone

  • BlackBerry KEYone review
  • KEYone vs. Priv: Battle of the BlackBerry keyboards
  • BlackBerry KEYone specs
  • The latest KEYone news
  • Join the discussion in the forums

Amazon
Best Buy
BlackBerry Mobile

7
Jun

Mobile gaming is influencing the future of the gaming industry as a whole


mobile-game-microtransactions-hero.jpg?i

Mobile gaming — and by extension the entire gaming industry — is at a crossroads.

Mobile games have always carried a stigma of compromised quality amongst the larger gamer community. In the ongoing PC vs Console debate, mobile games are all too often relegated to a lesser category altogether from PC and console equivalents because they’re “too casual” or simply not considered to be “true games”. For some time, these were valid critiques because so many mobile games look and feel like cookie-cutter copies of other games with limited gameplay or abusive freemium frameworks meant to exploit the addictive behaviors associated with smartphones

We’ve reached a point where flagship smartphones are now capable of emulating full gaming experiences in pocket form.

Everyone has played a free-to-play game that starts out being fun for the first several levels and totally hooked you in — and then out of nowhere you hit a wall and the incentive of those in-app purchases are just too tempting. Or the game is built around a loot box system that leaves you waiting for lady luck to bestow you with the character or weapon you actually want.

Fortunately, we’ve reached a point where flagship smartphones are now capable of emulating full gaming experience in pocket form. Whereas we used to accept the hardware limitations imposed on a mobile game developer, we’ve reached the point where “the gamer phone” is more than just a gimmick. Razer and ASUS have both jumped into the smartphone space to offer phones with specs capable of handling, the latest flagships more capable than ever, and apps like Steam Link offering a promising new look at what’s possible on mobile. In other words, it sure feels like mobile gaming is ready to shed that stigma that has held it back for so long — at the same time that the wider gaming industry seems keen on adapting to the mobile model for generating revenue.

Free-to-Play is winning the day

app-store-grossing-hero.jpg?itok=SHzHit-

I’ve spent enough time covering mobile gaming to know that, in spite of all of its detractors, the free-to-play model is still often the most sensible option for users who are wary when spending money on gaming, and studios who still need to generate profit. Even pricing a game as low as 99 cents has proven to severely limit the number of downloads versus releasing a free-to-play game chocked full of ads and/or in-app purchases.

Even pricing a game at 99 cents will severely limit the number of downloads versus releasing a free-to-play game chocked full of ads and/or in-app purchases.

For indie developers, it’s a challenge to even make gamers aware of your game, let alone convince them to pay for the game upfront. For every Monument Valley or The Room success story, there are some really great games that may never get the attention they deserve because they lack the marketing budget to blitz the internet with ads, or never get featured in the Google Play Store. News of Square Enix Montreal ending development of their popular GO franchise came as little surprise because the premium model for mobile games just isn’t as profitable for the companies making the game. It’s ironic that offering gamers a clean and rewarding experience devoid of advertising and in-app purchases — the things that mobile gamers bitch about the most — is often a death sentence for downloads and profits

And yet, mobile gaming continues to grow over the years not so much because of hardware and software advancements, but because of how ingrained smartphones have become in our daily lives. Consider that just eight years ago, Angry Birds was little more than a cute, $2 game that offered casual fun on the go with your fancy new touchscreen phone. Today, the franchise has carved out a cultural legacy that has reached billions of people worldwide and spawned an improbable movie franchise.

(The fact that The Angry Birds Movie generated over $350 million at the box office was just another disappointment from 2016.)

As smartphones have become ubiquitous in our daily culture, we’re approaching a sort of singularity moment where mobile devices are now more than capable of delivering the high-end gaming entertainment that used to be exclusive to PCs and consoles. Games like Fortnite, PUBG Mobile and Vainglory have proven that mobile games can be just as full-featured as their PC or console counterparts without having to compartmentalize or limit the gameplay itself.

But at the same time that the potential and hype surrounding mobile gaming is reaching new heights, the entire gaming industry is embracing the mobile micro-transactions and the “free-to-play with micro-transactions” model — with mixed results.

AAA games and micro-transactions

star-wars-battlefront-ii-loot-crate.jpg?

Over the same time period that Angry Birds took over the world, we’ve seen a massive shift from other juggernauts in the gaming industry itself. Five years ago, Rockstar released GTA 5 for the Xbox 360. GTA 5 remains the last major release in the series, because Rockstar discovered the lucrative cash cow that is GTA 5’s Online Mode — generating more revenue for Rockstar via regularly released DLC content and micro-transactions than ever could through the old model of releasing a brand new game every few years as was the case throughout the 2000s.

Fortnite is another great example. In development since 2011, Fortnite was designed with two game modes in mind for the final version — but it’s best known for it’s free-to-play Battle Royale mode that’s accessible and fun — and caught on with streamers and other gaming influencers like wildfire last year. For the mobile release, Epic Games decided not to bother with the co-op “Save The World” mode because it’s simply not worth the time when gamers crave nothing more than the Battle Royale mode and there’s so much money to be made via in-app purchases for cosmetic character upgrades.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen AAA games that should be amazing like Star Wars Battlefront 2 marred by controversy because surrounding the micropayment model that relied on crates and cards to upgrade your class. It’s the same micro-transaction system you’d expect from a free-to-play mobile game — except built into a full-priced AAA game. It looks and feels like a money grab because it is. Thanks, EA!

Finding it hard to buy into all the hype

pubg-best-new-games-hero.jpg?itok=4tnsKh

Of course, there’s a ton of factors at play here — the costs associated with developing an AAA title compared to a mobile game are apples and oranges, and we’d typically expect less from a mobile game than we would a major console release by the industry’s biggest publishers. As part of the release cycle, games are hyped to death at big events like E3 creating sky-high expectations, while a mobile game can drop into the Play Store with little to no fanfare and blow up through word of mouth. From that, we get PUBG Mobile that offers a great mobile gaming experience for free, while the version for the Xbox One version is a buggy mess that you still need to pay $30 upfront to play.

The gaming industry can continue to grow and expand its reach if they properly embrace the potential for mobile gaming on smartphones. When done right, gamers should have the ability to either pay upfront for a full game experience or be given fair options for investing money into the games they love, which in turn gives developers alternate avenues for recouping the costs of development, marketing and server maintenance from reliable sources. Today, that’s through micro-transactions, DLC expansions, loot boxes, and other methods of targeting the sorts of people who would spend money to progress in their favorite game. This can and should be done fairly, and it needs to be called out when it is not. Personally, I think it’s unfair to ask gamers to shell out $60 only to then be forced to spend more money to “enhance” the experience or stay competitive in the online arenas.

That’s why I think that mobile games — despite the exploitive nature of in-app purchases which I’ve written about this before — are in a great position to keep gaining influence and prominence in the industry while, for me, console gaming is quickly becoming an expensive hobby that’s too costly to keep up with.

Still Candy Crushin’ it

candy-crush.jpg?itok=gf2T0GK5

There are few better examples of a company that found success with the free-to-play model than King, the Swedish development company behind the insanely popular Candy Crush franchise. While it’s easy for a “true gamer” to dismiss a game like Candy Crush Saga as being a mindlessly mobile game with few redeeming qualities (fun, too), the game continues to rank among the most popular apps on Google Play and iOS App Store and still maintains over 200 million monthly active users all these years later. That’s an insane amount of reliable audience reach — and the fact that we’ve been spared from “Candy Crush: The Movie” to this point is a small miracle.

Activision Blizzard acquired King for $5.9 billion and is surely expecting big things from mobile gaming moving forward.

With those numbers in mind, Activision Blizzard went out and acquired King for a cool $5.9 billion in 2016. This was huge news, as Activision Blizzard is one of the biggest video game publishers of all time and responsible for some of the most profitable franchises in gaming history — Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. For it to invest so heavily in the mobile space shows the significance of the mobile platform moving forward. Since then, King has reportedly started working on a mobile version Activision’s most popular franchise, Call of Duty — at the same time that the PC and console version is pivoting hard towards the trendy Battle Royale mode to contend with Fortnite and PUBG.

While there’s no concrete information, it sure would make sense for Activision to follow industry trends and try to expand its franchises into the mobile space. Today’s smartphones should be more than capable of handling a proper version of Call of Duty for mobile, and there’s a massive audience that’s been clamoring for a true Call of Duty experience for Android. Done right, history shows us that it could be a massive hit with gamers and Activision Blizzard’s bottom line.

It’s a fine tightrope to walk

I recently had the chance to meet up with some developers from Ubisoft Barcelona’s mobile division ahead of the release of Might and Magic Elemental Guardians. Ubisoft bought the rights to Might and Magic in 2003, and released only a couple of traditional RPG releases for PC. But they’ve now pivoted the franchise to mobile and in many ways, the new mobile game represents the exact sort of mobile game compromises we see all too often — a robust PC game given a cartoonish overhaul and designed to be free-to-play with in-app purchases available to speed up your progression.

And yet, with no up-front costs or pay-to-win progression mechanics built in, Ubisoft producer I spoke to cited examples of players who have progressed to the top of the game’s leaderboards without spending any money in the game. It’s proving to be a hit with fans of the older Might and Magic games while Ubisoft is banking on attracting some of the 12 million mobile gamers who play mobile RPGs — and particularly those who will reliably spend a bunch of money on a free-to-play game. When I see in-app purchase bundles priced at $100 I stop and think there can’t possibly be that many players dropping serious cash like that into a game — and yet I’m told the number is probably much higher than you’d think.

Which is why we’re going to be seeing more in-game micro-transactions everywhere moving forward — it’s the new cost of gaming in 2018.

The question moving forward is whether we’ll see companies invest in developing more high-end gaming experiences for smartphones (which will also require more consistent support for Bluetooth gaming controllers, too) and whether publishers can fight the urge to dilute the overall experience with the lure of lucrative (yet restrictive) micro-transactions and loot boxes.

Android Gaming

best-action-games.jpg?itok=XIT8sDVg

  • Best Android games
  • Best free Android games
  • Best games with no in-app purchases
  • Best action games for Android
  • Best RPGs for Android
  • All the Android gaming news!

7
Jun

BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on: More of the same, back in the game


It looks familiar, but that’s where the similarities end.

I often think about the pressure movie directors are under to produce sequels that are not only better than the originals but more successful, more entertaining, more profitable. The Godfather Part II, Toy Story 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Paddington 2 — follow-ups that built upon legacies, expanding storylines, growing character arcs, and ultimately leaving the brand better off than where it started.

Such maxims don’t work perfectly in the technology industry, but it’s rare a sequel has been so anticipated as the BlackBerry KEY2 — at least among a small, loyal group of followers. But those supporters are the ones that never doubted the inevitable success of the KEYone, whose legacy was awkwardly forged in the unity of BlackBerry and TCL, which has since created a separate brand, BlackBerry Mobile, under which it plans to flagship phones. Phones like the KEY2.

blackberry-key2-preview-1.jpg?itok=CSSbr

Operating System Android 8.1 Oreo
Display 4.5-inch, 1620×1080 IPS LCD434ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 6604x Kryo 2.2GHz, 4x Kryo 1.8GHzAdreno 512 GPU
RAM 6GB
Storage 64GB / 128GB
Expandable microSD up to 2TB
Rear Camera 1 12MP (1.3 micron) ƒ/1.8 laser+phase autofocusdual-tone LED flash
Rear Camera 2 12MP (1 micron) ƒ/2.6 2x optical zoom portrait mode
Front Camera 8MP Selfie flash1080p/30 video
Battery 3500 mAh non-removable
Dimensions 151.4mm x 71.8mm x 8.5mm

As far as sequels go, this one is pretty conservative. But given the KEYone’s loyal following, and projected success (though TCL hasn’t released sales figures), changing too much would be have construed as a betrayal.

But BlackBerry focused on improving areas of criticism from the first phone, especially performance. To that end, the phone has a beefier Snapdragon 660 — a substantial upgrade from the Snapdragon 625 of the original — along with 6GB of RAM in every model and an ample 64 or 128GB of storage. It’s got dual rear cameras, a stronger series 7 aluminum frame, and a drastically improved keyboard with keys 20% larger, and far more tactile, than on the KEYone.

Both the robust frame and redesigned keyboard are part of an overall cleanup and modernization of the phone’s exterior. Most importantly, the bulbous front camera and sensor cutouts of the KEYone have been more seamlessly integrated into the bezel atop the 4.5-inch LCD panel, and the earpiece is more sunken, allowing for richer sound.

blackberry-key2-vs-keyone-7.jpg?itok=4zeblackberry-key2-vs-keyone-1.jpg?itok=9v8

As far as sequels go, this one is pretty conservative. But that’s OK, because the original was surprisingly good.

In fact, despite the presence of the keyboard, the KEY2 looks far more like a traditional phone than its predecessor in almost every respect. Thankfully, that extends to the placement of the power button, which is wedged between the convenience key and volume rocker on the right side of the phone. Its ridged texture distinguishes itself from the other buttons, which is a nice touch, but the fact that it’s there, on the right side where it should be, is reason enough for me to get excited about this phone. (I jest, but not really.)

This leaves the left side of the phone to deal with the SIM tray alone, all angles and matte finish. Putting the KEY2 next to the KEYone shows exactly where TCL’s designers focused their energy: on removing the shiny, cartoonish elements of the original. The KEY2 comes in two colors, black or silver, and both feature brushed aluminum finishes that speak more to my understanding of BlackBerry’s professional legacy.

blackberry-key2-preview-14.jpg?itok=x-7kblackberry-key2-preview-12.jpg?itok=x-7k

And even if your association with BlackBerry is more BBM than holster, the takeaway for everyone looking at the KEY2 without irony (because many people still view a physical keyboard on a phone as a useless indulgence) is that it’s objectively much better looking than its predecessor.

blackberry-key2-preview-16.jpg?itok=aeqP

That brings us to the keyboard. BlackBerry Mobile says the keys are 20% larger than before, and more evenly spaced thanks to redesigned frets. But perhaps the most significant improvement is the key finish, which is also matte.

That’s a big deal, because while the glossy KEYone may have looked good out of the box — all shiny and new — the keys got grimy and slippery after a few month’s use. Hopefully that won’t happen with this one.

While I haven’t spent much time with the KEY2’s keyboard, it’s clear the phone is much, much easier to type on. I’ve used every keyboarded BlackBerry since 2004’s 8700 ‘Blueberry’, and I see a lot of potential with this one. It’s closer to the Bold 9900, still considered the best hardware keyboard ever made, than the KEYone, and to me that’s important.

blackberry-key2-preview-28.jpg?itok=7MOU

Replacing the right Shift button is the new Speed Key, which works as a ‘function’ button of sorts. Holding it and pressing any one of the keyboard’s 26 letters can open any app or activate any shortcut the system can muster, from beginning a text or email to opening the camera or Instagram. There are 52 possible combinations, too, since you can hold on the Speed Key and long-press any letter of the alphabet.

Such functionality is estimable on the KEYone, but only from the home screen (and only using the BlackBerry Launcher). This bypasses all of those prerequisites, giving avid multitaskers more ways to manically accomplish tasks on the go. It’s unclear how much I’ll use this feature, but given that the Speed Key replaces a largely redundant second Shift key, there’s nothing but upside to the decision.

blackberry-key2-preview-24.jpg?itok=RsoN

I’ll spare you the monologue about whether it’s necessary having a phone with a physical keyboard in 2018. BlackBerry Mobile made the KEYone because there was so much pent-up demand for such a phone running Android. It made a sequel because it was confident it could make money from the enterprise. Who am I to judge those who find a keyboard more productive, or don’t mind the sacrifices, from screen size to waterproofing, that come with the form factor?

Sure, I’d like a waterproof KEY2 with wireless charging and a Snapdragon 845, but it would cost $1200 and be twice as thick — and twice as ugly.

Continuing the KEY2 tour, around back there’s a familiar textured back that BlackBerry Mobile says is ever-so-slightly redesigned to be even more comfortable to hold than before. If that’s possible.

blackberry-key2-preview-11.jpg?itok=oOYv

If you stare at the back long enough, you’ll notice a second camera sensor adorning the primary, offering features like 2x optical zoom and portrait mode. Both sensors are 12 megapixels, and the primary one has received a minor upgrade in a wider, faster ƒ/1.8 lens and a slight downgrade in the form of smaller 1.3 micron pixels (the KEYone famously shared the same IMX368 sensor with 1.55 micron pixels as the Google Pixel).

The camera on the KEYone was better than it had a right to be. Here, I’m hoping for the same thing.

I haven’t had a chance to take any photos with the KEY2, so I don’t know whether the smaller sensor will have a negative impact on photo quality, especially in low light, but I’m eager to test it out.

I also haven’t been able to use the phone long enough to see whether the KEYone’s legendary battery life has been transferred over to its sequel. With a 3,500mAh battery and something called a “Smart Battery Experience” that bases charging recommendations on your usage patterns, it should last at least as long as the original, and possibly longer given the custom-core efficiency of the Snapdragon 660.

blackberry-key2-preview-23.jpg?itok=slbl

As we bring this film to a close, we have to talk about software, and the legacy of BlackBerry itself. With Android 8.1 on board and the KEY2 certified as part of the Android Enterprise Recommended program, I’d be remiss not to point out that the phone, as popular as it is with a small number of enthusiasts, is really aimed at the enterprise market.

To that end, the KEY2 maintains its predecessor’s focus on privacy and security, promising monthly security updates (bested only by Google itself) and, as part of the AER, “at least one major OS update.” So you know that the KEY2 will get Android P — eventually. For what it’s worth, the KEYone is still on Nougat and is expected to get Oreo shortly after the KEY2’s release.

Mainstay apps like DTEK have received visual updates to improve usability, and the BlackBerry Locker now has built-in document support so files stored on the phone don’t need to be uploaded to the cloud. (Imagine 10 years ago the notion that a phone needed a specialized locker to prevent files from automatically being uploaded to Google’s servers. What a world we live in.)

More interesting is a partnership with Mozilla to pre-install Firefox Focus, its new super-fast, privacy-focused browser, within the locker, so nothing is tracked and everything is kept out of advertisers’ prying eyes.

blackberry-key2-preview-4.jpg?itok=66dE9blackberry-key2-preview-10.jpg?itok=to1d

I’ll be honest, I’m excited for the KEY2. The primary reason to buy a BlackBerry is for its keyboard, and that seems to be an area the company has worked hard to improve this time around. I didn’t love the KEYone’s keyboard — it never felt comfortable to type on for long periods — but I’m optimistic about the changes made to the KEY2.

The primary issue with the phone will be price: at $649 USD unlocked, it’s an extra $100 on top of what the KEYone demanded, and despite the hefty specification improvements, it’s a hard pill to swallow. At this point, we don’t know carrier specifics for the U.S., but BlackBerry Mobile says, as usual, the phone will launch first at Canadian carriers, where it will sell for $829. In Europe, it will be €649 or £579. The phone launches later this month.

See at BlackBerry Mobile

BlackBerry KEY2

  • BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on preview
  • BlackBerry KEY2: Everything you need to know!
  • BlackBerry KEY2 specs
  • BlackBerry KEYone review: Coming home
  • Join our BlackBerry KEY2 forums!

BlackBerry

7
Jun

BlackBerry KEY2 Specifications


Don’t fret, here are the specs.

blackberry-key2-preview-5.jpg?itok=3gH5R

The BlackBerry KEY2 isn’t a reinvention of the KEYone, but it takes what was desirable and delightful about the original and improves areas that were lacking. In particular, performance issues have been addressed with an upgrade to a faster Snapdragon 660 processor and 6GB of RAM. BlackBerry Mobile has also moved up to a dual camera system, though it promises that the primary sensor is still great, and the keyboard is now 20% larger, with clickier, more responsive keys.

Here’s everything you need to know about the BlackBerry KEY2.

Operating System Android 8.1 Oreo
Display 4.5-inch, 1620×1080 IPS LCD434ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 6604x Kryo 2.2GHz, 4x Kryo 1.8GHzAdreno 512 GPU
RAM 6GB
Storage 64GB / 128GB
Expandable microSD up to 2TB
Rear Camera 1 12MP (1.3 micron) ƒ/1.8 laser+phase autofocusdual-tone LED flash
Rear Camera 2 12MP (1 micron) ƒ/2.6 2x optical zoom portrait mode
Video 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps HDR
Front Camera 8MP Selfie flash1080p/30 video
Battery 3500 mAh non-removable
Charging Quick Charge 3.0 USB-C
Water resistance No
Headphone jack Yes
Security Front-facing fingerprint sensor (in keyboard) DTEK security suiteFIPS 140-2 Full Disk EncryptionAndroid For Work, Google Play for Work
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac, 5GHz, Bluetooth 5 + LE, NFCGPS, GLONASS
Network (NA GSM) LTE Band 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 20, 28, 29, 30, 66 TD-LTE Band 38, 39, 40, 41
Dimensions 151.4mm x 71.8mm x 8.5mm
Weight 168 grams
Price $649 USD, €649, £579, $829 CAD

BlackBerry KEY2

  • BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on preview
  • BlackBerry KEY2: Everything you need to know!
  • BlackBerry KEY2 specs
  • BlackBerry KEYone review: Coming home
  • Join our BlackBerry KEY2 forums!

BlackBerry

7
Jun

BlackBerry KEY2: Everything you need to know


Like the BlackBerry KEYone? You’re going to love the KEY2 😍

blackberry-key2-preview-4.jpg?itok=66dE9

Following a heap of rumors and leaks, BlackBerry finally unveiled the highly-anticipated KEY2 on June 7, 2018. The KEY2 is a direct successor to last year’s KEYone and retains the same general design while offering upgraded specs across the board.

There’s a lot to unpack with the KEY2, so let’s go ahead and get into it.

Watch and read the preview

The KEY2 doesn’t do too much that’s different to the KEYone, but it improves everything in either minor or major ways. Three areas, in particular, get focus: performance, keyboard quality, and design.

BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on: More of the same, less of the lame

The design is mostly the same

blackberry-key2-vs-keyone-1.jpg?itok=9v8

One of the main reasons the KEYone stood out so much was thanks to its productivity-focused design. Instead of releasing a glass, all-screen slab like so many other companies, BlackBerry kicked out a chunky, physical keyboard-touting phone.

With the KEY2, that theme is present once again.

The KEY2 measures in at 151.4 mm x 71.8mm x 8.5mm, making it taller, yet thinner, than the KEYone. The screen is once again a 4.5-inch panel with a 1620 x 1080 resolution, and the 3:2 aspect ratio makes a return, too.

You’ve got access to 35 backlit keys on the physical keyboard, and similar to the KEYone, the spacebar doubles as an integrated fingerprint sensor.

It’s got more RAM and a faster processor, but the battery is slightly smaller

blackberry-key2-preview-2.jpg?itok=jRqbr

Although the KEY2 may look similar to the KEYone on the outside, it’s got a lot of improvements under the hood.

Last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor and measly 3GB RAM have been replaced with a Snapdragon 660 and impressive 6GB RAM. You also have your choice between 64 or 128GB of internal storage, both of which can be upgraded to 256GB via a microSD card.

The battery is ever-so-slightly smaller at 3,500 mAh compared to the KEYone’s 3,505 mAh unit, but thanks to the power-sipping nature of the 660, the KEY2 should still be a battery champ.

BlackBerry steps up to dual cameras

blackberry-key2-preview-7.jpg?itok=4R2Nt

The single 12MP rear camera on the KEYone was fine. It had the capacity to take decent photos, but often struggled in low-light and produced very shakey 4K video.

You don’t buy BlackBerry phones for their excellent cameras, but this is another area where the KEY2 should offer some serious improvements.

Around back, BlackBerry’s outfitted the KEY2 with dual 12MP sensors. The primary one features a large 1.28um pixel size with f/1.8 aperture while the secondary one touts a 1.0um pixel size and f/2.6 aperture. You can record video in 4K at 30 FPS, dual-tone flash helps to brighten dark scenes, and there’s Phase Detection Autofocus.

In regards to the selfie camera, you’re looking at an 8MP sensor that’s capable of recording 1080p video at 30 FPS.

You’ll need to cough up $650 to own one

blackberry-key2-preview-17.jpg?itok=Zcog

As you’d expect, the KEY2’s many enhancements have resulted in a steeper price tag compared to last year’s model.

While the KEYone started out at $550 in the U.S., the KEY2 is $100 more expensive at $650.

Elsewhere, the KEY2 will cost €649 EU, £579 GB, and $829 CDN.

BlackBerry KEY2

  • BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on preview
  • BlackBerry KEY2: Everything you need to know!
  • BlackBerry KEY2 specs
  • BlackBerry KEYone review: Coming home
  • Join our BlackBerry KEY2 forums!

BlackBerry

7
Jun

The Fire TV Cube is available for pre-order and Prime members get $30 off


Something new and exciting.

Amazon Prime members can pre-order the Fire TV Cube streaming media player for $89.99 if they order it before June 8. For everyone else, it is still available for pre-order, but they’ll have to pay $119.99 instead. The pre-order discount ends June 8, and the item releases June 21.

As an extra bonus, if you activate the Fire TV Cube before July 1, you’ll get a $10 credit for Amazon Prime Video. The credit has to be applied by August 31 and only works on digital video content sold by Amazon.

firetvcube-1k53.jpg?itok=DvTXOwGN
We broke down the Fire TV Cube earlier today. Essentially, imagine the way you use an Echo Dot now to control all the wirelessly connected appliances around your home. Then imagine that control plugged into your TV so you can control everything plugged in there with your voice as well. That’s what you get with this new device. It’s a way to turn on the TV, play your favorite DVD, adjust the volume on your home audio system, dim the lights, and get your microwave to cook some popcorn all without moving from the best spot on the couch.

You can also get $30 off a bundle that includes the Fire TV Cube and Amazon’s Cloud Cam Security Cam. The bundle is discounted to $200 instead of the $240 you’d have to pay for each item individually, and Prime members pay just $169.98 total with the extra $30 off.

If you’re not a Prime member but want to take advantage of these discounts, you can sign up for free today and get the deals with your 30-day trial.

See on Amazon

7
Jun

BlackBerry KEY2 Hands-On by MrMobile


There’s no getting around it: I’m a born-again BlackBerry addict. From the first hands-on through the second teaser and then the full review, it was pretty obvious how I felt about the BlackBerry KEYone. I loved it for re-addicting me to the physical keyboard, and I respected it for backing up that halo feature with incredible battery life. At the same time, the KEYone suffered many of the predictable pitfalls of your typical “reboot” product: my device’s responsiveness slowed to a crawl shortly after the initial review period, and no amount of replacements or RAM upgrades could correct for that.

The BlackBerry KEY2, announced moments ago, packs a bevy of improvements that should correct for that. There’s a newer processor under its textured rubber backplate; refined software riding atop a foundation of Android 8.1; and 50% more RAM than even the top-tier trim of the KEYone. The KEY2 also comes with a revised aluminum design that whittles away a lot of the bulk, making it more pocketable (and positively more pretty) than its predecessor. Best of all, the new BlackBerry’s keys have been made 20% taller, and the slick glossy gelcoat has been replaced with a matte finish that evokes the BlackBerry Passport keyboard of years past.

Will those improvements make the BlackBerry KEY2 the next phone to grace your pocket – even at its newer, higher starting price of $649? Get an early look at every angle of the KEY2 in my BlackBerry KEY2 Hands-On – and be sure to check out Android Central’s complete coverage so you don’t miss the deeper dive!

Stay social, my friends

  • YouTube
  • The Web
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram

7
Jun

AT&T Raising Price of Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans to $45 Per Month


AT&T is again raising the price for grandfathered unlimited smartphone data plans by $5 per month, according to a support article on the carrier’s website and multiple tipsters who emailed us today. The price hike will be effective this July, and notifications appear to have started hitting the first wave of grandfathered unlimited plan users over the past few days.

In the article, AT&T says that any customer who has a grandfathered $40 data plan will soon begin seeing an email about the $5 per month price increase. Multiple tipsters have already gotten such notifications, and one — MacRumors forum user jav6454 — says that his grandfathered unlimited data plan was originally bought for $30 around the time of the iPhone 3G.

The last time a $5/month increase happened was in March 2017, raising grandfathered plans from $35 to $40, and followed an increase from $30 to $35 in February 2016. AT&T originally discontinued unlimited plans in 2010 and didn’t introduce new unlimited plans again until 2017.

In its explanation, AT&T says that “record levels” of mobile data use have led to the decision to increase the monthly cost of legacy data plans:

Consumers are using mobile data at record levels and the trend is expected to continue. To help make sure we continue to provide the best service for all of our customers, a small price increase is being made at this time.

Customers who have a grandfathered $40 data plan will receive notifications of a $5 per month rate increase for the data plan. The rate increase will take effect starting with the customer’s July, 2018 service.

The carrier promises that the price increase will not impact data speeds, and speeds will only be reduced when 22GB of data in a billing cycle is exceeded or when users are in a congested area. AT&T also points out that customers can change their plan at any time, although anyone who switches out of a grandfathered plan should be warned because they won’t be able to go back once a new plan is selected.

Currently, AT&T offers “Unlimited Plus Enhanced” and “Unlimited Choice Enhanced” as options for unlimited monthly data usage. Unlimited Plus is $80/month for one line and then rises to $190/month for four lines (at $48 per line), while Unlimited Choice is $65/month for one line and $160/month for four lines (at $40 per line). The latter plan streams standard definition video, lacks mobile hotspot features, and doesn’t include DirecTV entertainment savings (only DirecTV Now).

Before these new unlimited plans launched, AT&T and many other carriers were heavily focused on eliminating grandfathered users through ongoing price hikes, like we are seeing again this summer.

(Thanks Jose and Alan!)

Tag: AT&T
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

7
Jun

Amazon Reveals ‘Fire TV Cube’ With Support for 4K, HDMI CEC, Dolby Atmos, Alexa Voice Controls, and More


Amazon today unveiled its latest “Fire” branded product, called the “Fire TV Cube.” The company describes the device as a hands-free box that streams 4K Ultra HD video using Alexa voice controls. The set-top box appears to have many features similar (or coming soon) to the Apple TV 4K, with 4K HDR content, smart assistant integration, HDMI CEC, Dolby Atmos support, and more.

With far-field voice recognition, one difference between the two devices is that the Fire TV Cube relies on eight microphones embedded into the box to hear users across the room, whereas Apple TV 4K picks up commands solely via the handheld Siri Remote. The Fire TV Cube does ship with an Alexa Voice Remote, however, so handheld commands are also an option.

The Fire TV Cube appears to be similar to HomePod in regard to far-field voice commands, with advanced beamforming technology that suppresses noise, reverberation, currently playing content, and competing voices from other people “to make sure Alexa clearly hears your request.”

“We believe voice makes it easier for customers to control their entertainment systems and watch the TV and movies they care about,” said Marc Whitten, Vice President of Fire TV. “And, it’s just the beginning. Amazon Fire TV Cube will only get better over time with the Alexa service always getting smarter.”

Another notable difference is the Fire TV Cube’s compatibility with set-top boxes from cable companies including Comcast, DISH, and DirecTV. With the integration, users can ask Alexa to “switch to channel 31” and the Fire TV Cube will speak to the cable box to initiate the command.

With HDMI CEC, users can power their TV sets on and off, with Amazon giving the following example of this interaction: “Even with the TV off, simply say ‘Alexa, play Billions on SHOWTIME’ and Fire TV Cube powers on your TV and starts playback right where you left off.”


Otherwise, the Fire TV Cube has a user interface that Amazon says puts “content forward” and is built around voice control. Commands include “Alexa, find sci-fi movies”; “Alexa, play the trailer”; and “Alexa, show me more results.” Users can also initiate searches based on directors and actors.

Additionally, the company optimized Alexa responses for the big screen “with rich visual information,” so users can view smart home camera feeds, check out the news, catch up with sports, look at the weather, and more after asking Alexa for each task.

The Fire TV Cube can be pre-ordered today and tomorrow for a special price of $89.99 (for Prime members only), and afterwards the device will cost $119.99. The Cube comes with 16GB of storage, a power adapter, IR extender cable, Ethernet adapter, Alexa Voice Remote, and will begin shipping out to customers on June 21. Anyone who buys the device and registers it by July 1 will get a $10 credit for Prime Video.

Tag: Amazon
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

7
Jun

Amazon Prime Secures Rights to Show 20 Premier League Football Matches a Season in the U.K. From 2019-2022


Amazon Prime Video has secured the rights to stream live Premier League football matches for three years from 2019, at no extra cost to Prime members who live in the U.K.

The exclusive deal, announced on Thursday, means that from next year Amazon Prime will show every game from the first round of midweek matches in December and all 10 games on Boxing Day, with weekly highlights of all Premier League matches throughout the season.

The Premier League is the most-watched sports league in the world, and from the 2019/20 season UK Prime members will have exclusive access to watch 20 matches per season, comprising two full fixture rounds – the first December midweek round and the festive Bank Holiday round – featuring live coverage of every Premier League team.

The deal marks the first time a full round of matches will be shown live in the U.K., and while it leaves out the more lucrative weekend games, it shows a big statement from the company, which already broadcasts tennis events like the U.S. Open and ATP World Tour, and NFL games on Amazon Prime Video.

Previously, Sky and BT Sport have shared the rights to the EPL, following an auction in 2015 that saw the broadcasters splash £5.1 billion ($6.9 billion) between them for three seasons. Earlier this year, the Premier League announced that it had sold five out of seven of its U.K. TV packages. BT Sport bought one bundle amounting to 32 games and Sky acquired four bundles, securing 128 matches. BT Sport also secured the last other 20-game TV package, the Premier League confirmed today.

The Premier League remains Europe’s most prized live sports broadcast asset and with a growing audience in the U.S., fits in perfectly with Amazon’s broader strategy to bring more sports content to its global customers, draw more people to its U.K. Prime membership service, and convert occasional customers into more loyal shoppers. An Amazon Prime membership in the U.K. costs £79 a year or £7.99 a month.

Tags: Amazon, United Kingdom, Amazon Prime Video
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

%d bloggers like this: